Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem-solving program that allows students to use creativity and teamwork to solve a challenge problem with a long-term solution. For our first graders the theme was to create a cooking show. The kids created the script, scenery and props.
His first season of basketball he had never attempted to dribble a ball until the first practice. From chucking the ball when his dribbling skills slowed him down to going after every rebound and passing to his teammates his growth is a testament to the patience and diligence of his coaches and his tenacity.
The most intuitive of numbers, eleven, also symbolizes disorder, extravagance and rebellion. It comes after the wholeness of ten, a decade of childhood complete, but before twelve, the beginning of angst and separation. At eleven I can still kiss you on the lips, hug you in front of your friends and be the source of your truth. You laugh at my jokes, you patiently explain video games, anime and hip hop songs and you accept my reasoning and explanations for why things have to be my way. A golden time, I realize, soon enough I will be challenged to vie for relevance and coolness.
Yesterday was President’s Day, the third day of a long weekend. Our weekend was full of basketball games, Odyssey of the Mind, a trip into DC, a family party and lots of family time in and around the house, in and out of the car. Our weekend was also full of bickering. My kids can rarely have a conversation that doesn’t include one-upping, eye-rolling, heavy sighs of annoyance and outright yelling. Each one knows more than the other and each one finds the other painful to tolerate. Of course this escalates until my blood boils over and I become the even louder hammer that squashes it. The silence lasts all of two minutes before someone starts talking again and the one-upping and eye-rolling pick right back up.
So by the end of the long weekend I was ready to rid myself of all my children. I needed silence, I needed removal.
What happened to the days when I’d have excitement to spend a day with my kids? There was no sliver of enjoyment I could point to in the past three days. Was I just dead inside? Had I outgrown my children?
At 11pm last nightPenny cried out with a fever. I gave her Motrin and she quickly went back to sleep but I knew, deep down, that this was not going to turn out well. By 11am today I learned she had the flu. I got her medicine, settled on the couch with lunch in her belly, tissues, water and T.V. remote by her side, and I sat at the dining table to do what work I could get done. I texted five different people to coordinate logistics for the evening, to ensure the boys activities wouldn’t suffer and texted another five people to alert them of Penny’s condition for support. I fed everyone dinner, did the dishes, straightened up the house (for fear that I would soon go down and wanted at least a clean house to be sick in), went through homework, washed my hands for the 50th time, asked the boys how their days were and got everyone tucked into bed.
It’s 10pm, Penny is having nightmares so I am sitting on the floor of her dark bedroom. As I look back on my day there is not a hint of annoyance. I missed a big meeting at work, I fell behind on a deliverable, I pushed other meetings aside and yet I am completely pleased with what I’ve accomplished today.
In the coming days Lucas then Oliver and then ultimately I will get sick. I will realize that having to care for my sick children is the exact kind of purpose I needed to right myself. In their sickness they have no energy to bicker over which T.V. show to watch, to complain that so-and-so is touching them. Stripped of exasperation I can see them for who they are; vulnerable children in need of compassion and the love that only I can give.
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself… Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”
― Henry David Thoreau
For a few hours at low tide a sand and gravel bar are exposed allowing people to walk across the bottom of the sea from Bar Harbor to Bar Island. It was incredible to see the bar exposed for the first time, what had moments ago been the sea suddenly revealed what lay beneath.
Sand Beach is nestled between a mountain and a rocky shore on the east side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. When we arrived the inlet was shrouded in early morning fog which was quickly chased away by the day’s sun.
We did our first staycation in Washington D.C. when Lucas was two and Penny just a babe. Over the years we’ve continued this indulgent tradition, being tourists in our own city.
“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
― Mary Oliver